General issues: Danish colony 1856-1917
Country name on general issues: None, Dansk-Vestindike Oer, Dansk Vestindien
Special issues: Cameron Macauly Company 1864-1866
Currency: 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1856-1905, 1 Franc = 100 Bit 1905-1917
Population: 30 500 in 1901
Political history Danish West Indies
The Danish West Indies are a group of islands located in the Caribbean. Before colonization the islands were inhabited by the Taino, an Amerindian people inhabiting many of the Caribbean islands. The first European to explore the islands was Christopher Columbus in 1493. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the islands were claimed and temporarily settled by the Spanish, the British, the Dutch and the Danish. Eventually, the Danish would establish a permanent settlement on Saint Thomas in 1672. Saint John was settled by the Danish in 1675. Finally, Saint Croix was bought from the French in 1733. Initially, the islands were administered by the Danish West Indies Company, a chartered company that was granted, aside from commercial rights, administrative powers. In 1754, the Danish West Indies reverted to the Danish crown.
The Danish West Indies were developed as a plantations colony, sugar cane being the most important cash crop. To man the plantations, slaves were brought to the islands – slaves that would soon outnumber the European population. Saint Thomas developed into a center of trade. When, in 1848, slavery was abolished, it became difficult to exploit the plantations at a profit. The colony became a liability rather than an asset. Throughout the second part of the 19th century, the Danish negotiated with both Germany and the United States about the sale of the islands. Finally, the islands were sold to the United States in 1917. The Danish West Indies were subsequently named the United States Virgin Islands. For the exact location, please refer to the map of the Caribbean.
Currently, the United States Virgin Islands are a United States territory. Tourism is the most important sector in the economy. With 76%, blacks form the majority of the population. Whites account for 15% of the population.
Postal history Danish West Indies
The first stamps for the Danish West Indies were issued in 1856. These were of a design identical to the Danish stamps of the time – only inscribed ‘KGL Post'‘Royal Mail’ without a country name. This design would be used until, in 1873, a new design was introduced, now inscribed ‘Dansk-Vestindike Oer'‘Danish West-Indies Islands’. From 1900, the stamps are inscribed ‘Dansk Vestindien’. From 1873, the design of the stamps is specific for the Danish West Indies, but reminiscent of the stamps issued in Denmark. The stamps of the Danish West Indies were superseded by the stamps of the United States in 1917.
Saint Thomas – a center of trade – was also a hub for international mail services:
- A British office operated in Saint Thomas from 1860 to 1877, using the general issues of Great Britain from 1865.
- The German Hamburg American Packet Company – HAPAG – operated an office in Saint Thomas from 1875 to 1877, using the HAPAG issues, listed in the Michel catalog with Germany.
- Finally, the Cameron Macauly Company – from 1864 until 1866 – and the Jesurun Company – from 1866 until 1870 – connected La Guaira and Porto Cabello in Venezuela to Saint Thomas. The Cameron Macauly Company issued stamps for specific use in Saint Thomas, different issues being used in Venezuela due to currency differences. The Jesurun Company issued stamps for use in both Saint Thomas and Venezuela.These issues are listed in the Michel catalog only.